In an unprecedented move, Leicestershire and Rutland Freemasons opened the doors to several of their Masonic Halls across the region on Saturday 9th September 2017 for everyone to see inside as part of the National Heritage Open Days and to celebrate the 300th anniversary of the formation of the United Grand Lodge of England
Over 600 people wanted to see and know more about Freemasonry and took the time to visit one of the Halls.
At Freemasons’ Hall, London Road, Leicester, Dale Neal from BBC Radio Leicester did a live outside broadcast as part of the Monica Winfield show. His reaction when he saw the decorative Holmes Lodge Room live on air was priceless, similar to those of other visitors and was just simply “Wow!” Dale spoke on air to the Provincial Grand Master David Hagger about Freemasonry and organiser of the event David Turner, who described some of the history surrounding the historic building which has been the Provincial Headquarters since 1910.
Other Masonic Halls which opened their doors were Ashby-de-la-Zouch, Hinckley, Lutterworth, Market Harborough and Syston.
At Hinckley Masonic Hall, amongst the many visitors was the Deputy Mayor of the Borough, Councillor Jan Kirby with her consort Mike Kirby, who were delighted to learn about the building and its historical past. After the visit the Deputy Mayor said: 'It was a pleasure to be shown around your lovely Masonic rooms and told the history of the Masons within Hinckley.
'It was explained to us that you are all just people who are like minded from all parts of our community who want to help others. Many people do not realise the charitable works that the Masons do for our community.'
Another visitor was Mrs Shirley Ashmore who was only too pleased to view the large board recording the names of the Past Masters of the Knights of Malta Lodge No. 50 which occupies a prominent position within the Lodge Room. This board was presented to the Lodge in 1967, by her mother, Mrs Hipwell, in memory of her late husband Cecil Hipwell who was the Master of the Lodge in 1948.
Andy Hardy-Smith, organiser at Market Harborough, said: 'The reaction from the public was good and it has been suggested that perhaps we should open our doors again in the future. It was an opportunity for one of our potential new members to come along and is now intent on joining.'
Malcolm Talbot from Ashby-de-la-Zouch said: 'The day proved a great success and started with visitors queuing outside before we even opened our doors. We had a steady stream of visitors appearing throughout the day.'
Victor Petrie from Lutterworth said: 'We had several visitors including a couple who were passing through Lutterworth while on holiday and two members from Rugby, Warwickshire. All the visitors were greatly impressed with the facilities available at the centre and asked many questions when they were shown round the Lodge Room.'
The Provincial Grand Master David Hagger said: 'We are thrilled that so many took the opportunity to come and have a look around our Halls and we hope that it helped them better understand the history of our Halls and Freemasonry in general.'
Leicestershire and Rutland Freemasons celebrated the 300th Anniversary of the formation of the first Grand Lodge of England, by unveiling commemorative blue plaques to mark the first activity of Freemasonry in the area at Masonic Halls across the Province
On 24th June 1717, four lodges, which had existed for some time in London, formed the Grand Lodge of England which has since continued to administer lodges across the country including the 76 lodges and it's 3,000 members in Leicestershire and Rutland.
The earliest known lodge in Leicester was established in 1739 and met at the Wheat Sheaf Inn on Humberstone Gate. Other lodges followed including St John’s Lodge in 1790 which is the oldest surviving lodge in Leicester still in existence. In 1859, the two lodges meeting in Leicester, St John’s Lodge, then meeting at the Bell Hotel, and John of Gaunt Lodge, raised funds to build a permanent home in Halford Street. The Masonic Hall in Halford Street continued to be the principal place of meeting for 50 years until it was deemed no longer adequate.
A freehold Georgian house and its grounds on London Road were purchased in 1909 and the new headquarters were in use a year later in 1910. Freemasons’ Hall has been extended on a number of occasions, particularly in the 1930s and 1960s, and continues as the headquarters for the Province of Leicestershire and Rutland and has 43 lodges meeting there. The building has some of the finest Masonic Lodge Rooms in the country and has a large Masonic Museum with artefacts dating back to the 17th Century.
The first Masonic Lodge in Syston was formed in 1901, East Goscote Lodge, and was granted a Warrant to meet in the village hall. The Master of the Lodge, who owned an old school in Broad Street, built a new single storey Masonic Hall which continues to be in use after several extensions over the years. A total of 7 lodges meet at the hall today which makes it one of the largest halls outside of Leicester.
The first Masonic Lodge in Loughborough was formed in 1835 and met at the King’s Head but unfortunately closed in 1853. A new lodge, Howe & Charnwood Lodge, was formed in 1864 which also met at the King’s Head before moving to the Town Hall, after a disagreement with the landlady over the charge of 25 shillings per meeting. In 1956, the Masonic Lodges in the town purchased the Old Adult School in Ashby Square which has continued to serve as their meeting place.
The first Masonic Lodge to meet in Ashby-de-la-Zouch was Ivanhoe Lodge which met at the Royal Hotel from 1836 until the Lodge closed in 1841. Another lodge, Ferrers and Ivanhoe, which continues to meet today, was subsequently formed in 1859 and originally met at the Town Hall. In 1981, the old Lyric Picture Palace was purchased for £7,000 and refurbished at a total costs of £94,500. The Lyric Rooms continues to host the two Ashby lodges and serving the local community.
The first Masonic Lodge in Coalville, Grace Dieu Lodge, was formed in 1892 which met at the Masonic rooms situated next to the Railway Hotel. In 1926, a Committee was formed to raise money to pay for the building of the present Masonic Hall in Park Road which was subsequently opened in 1928. This Hall continues to be used by the two Masonic Lodges that meet in Coalville.
The first Lodge to meet in Hinckley, the Knights of Malta Lodge, was brought to Hinckley from Macclesfield in 1803. The Lodge met at various inns in Hinckley over a number of years. As the popularity of Freemasonry rose it was necessary to find a permanent home and land was bought in St Mary’s Road to build a Masonic Hall. The Hall was opened in 1928 and continues to host the lodges that meet in Hinckley along with serving the local community.
The first Masonic Lodge in Melton Mowbray, Rutland Lodge, was formed in 1866 which met at the George Hotel. Subsequently, the stabling at the Wicklow Hunting Lodge on Burton Road was purchased for conversion into the present Masonic Hall. This was opened in 1951 and continues to serve the three Masonic Lodges that meet there.
Vale of Catmos Lodge was formed in 1869 and met at the Agriculture Hall in Oakham. In 1877, the Lodge decided to meet in licenced premises and moved to the George Hotel. After 10 years, the Lodge moved back to the Agriculture Hall which was subsequently renamed Victoria Hall to commemorate Queen Victoria’s Jubilee. An opportunity rose to utilise the accumulated funds of a member’s legacy to secure long term accommodation at the Old Hall at Oakham School. Two lodges have met there for the last nine years.
The Uppingham in Rutland Lodge was consecrated in 1984 and meets at the Upper Cricket Pavillion in Uppingham. After each meeting, members dine at the Falcon Hotel which has provided the Lodge with a venuefor over 30 years.
St Peter’s Lodge was granted a Warrant in 1870 to meet at the Three Swans Hotel in Market Harborough. As Freemasonry began to expand its popularity, a building fund was established in 1967 to build a permanent home. Land was purchased in Kings Road and the current Masonic Hall was built and opened in 1968 where currently two lodges continue to meet today.
Wiclif Lodge was grant a Warrant in 1904 to meet in the Upper Room of the Town Hall in Lutterworth. The Lodge continued to meet at the Town Hall until 1963 when they moved to their permanent residence at the former Ritz Cinema. More recently further refurbishment and an extension has been undertaken. The Wycliffe Rooms now acts as both a Masonic Hall for the two lodges and also a Community Centre for a wide range of activities.
The plaques were unveiled by the Provincial Grand Master of Leicestershire and Rutland, David Hagger who was supported by the Mayors of Charnwood, Oakham, Lutterworth and a large number of members, family and friends. The plaques were designed by W Bro Andy Green, Provincial Junior Grand Warden and made by local firm The Metal Foundry based in South Wigston, Leicestershire.
RW Bro David Hagger, said: 'We are celebrating 300 years of Freemasonry and the foresight and courage of our forebears to perceive and enhance our society over the centuries. If we continue to pursue our ideals of integrity, fairness and honesty, Freemasonry will continue to flourish in Leicestershire and Rutland.
'We'll also be holding several public events throughout 2017 including opening the doors to our Masonic Halls during the Heritage Open Days for everyone to see inside and an exhibition at Newarke Houses Museum in Leicester on Freemasonry, highlighting the contribution of Freemasons to our local communities. We hope this will lead to further interest and a better understanding of our historic fraternity.'
Twelve Hinckley Freemasons are taking on the National Three Peaks Challenge, to celebrate the United Grand Lodge of England's Tercentenary and raise money for the Masonic Charitable Foundation and Lawrence House
The National Three Peaks Challenge will involve climbing the highest peaks in Scotland, England and Wales in just 24 hours.
The Freemasons are all from Hinckley Lodges including Knights of Malta Lodge No. 50, Burbach Lodge No. 8699 and Lodge of St Simon and St Jude No. 8729.
The challenge starts at Ben Nevis in Scotland on Saturday 2nd September 2017, followed by Scafell Pike in England and finishing on Snowdon in Wales.
Organiser W Bro David Fell commented: 'Taking on the National Three Peaks challenge is a great way to celebrate the Tercentenary and raise money for the 2022 Festival for the Masonic Charitable Foundation and Lawrence House, which supports homeless young people in the Hinckley area.'
The Provincial Grand Master of Leicestershire and Rutland, RW Bro David Hagger said: 'I wish all of our walkers a safe expedition and thank them for their support in raising money for two wonderful charities.'
Donations to the challenge can be made by clicking here
A portrait oil painting of Earl Howe and Past Provincial Grand Master of Leicestershire and Rutland, has been recently restored and re-installed at the Masonic Hall in Hinckley, Leicestershire
The painting, which has been under the care of the Freemasons of Hinckley since 1985, dates back to around 1845 and had through the course of time suffered degradation and physical damage. When the Hinckley Masonic Hall underwent major reconstruction during the summer of 2011, the painting was removed for safe storage and has since been lovingly restored including the addition of a new frame.
RW Bro Richard William Penn, Earl Howe lived in Gopsall Hall, near to Hinckley, and was Provincial Grand Master of the then Leicestershire Province from 1856 and became the first Provincial Grand Master of the combined Province of Leicestershire and Rutland until 1869. He was also Provincial Grand Master of Warwickshire from 1843 to 1852 and Deputy Grand Master of the United Grand Lodge of England from 1844 to 1866.
Earl Howe was a much loved and distinguished brother who practised the meaning and teaching of Freemasonry outside the lodge as well as in it. When the Knights of Malta Lodge No. 50 fell into hard times in the 1850’s he agreed to become its Master and served for two years. He was also a great benefactor to the town of Hinckley and started many initiatives to help its residents when many families were destitute after the Napoleonic War. He also donated a large sum of money to repair, renovate and construct churches throughout the county.
The painting of Earl Howe can be seen by every Freemason when negotiating the stairs in Hinckley Masonic Hall and will serve to remind them of role Earl Howe in both Hinckley and beyond.